One week away from a new-world free-agency period, what can we really expect? For the most part, I'm keeping my expectations low, believing there won't be much real talent on the streets. Then again, when players like Julius Peppers, Dunta Robinson, Karlos Dansby and Chester Taylor could very well be unrestricted free agents next Friday, well, that's a pretty good foursome to headline any class.
A lot of things will happen between now and then. And, truthfully, the depth of the potential class of unrestricted free agents could be as shallow as it has ever been. I'm starting to get that feeling, as we get into the heat of the NFL's off-season and wonder what the Eagles have in mind.
Right now, their entire focus is on the NFL draft. They are at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and will be for the better part of the next week. The Eagles are operating, as they do, very quietly, very efficiently. They have a tight schedule, a well-defined agenda and they want to make sure there are no distractions in the way.
But I'm looking ahead toward free agency. What the Eagles do with their group of restricted free agents is very, very important. They have to make sure that players like Leonard Weaver, Jason Avant and Nick Cole are tendered properly, or even signed to longer-term deals. All three players are key to what the Eagles are doing and the Eagles can't allow them to be lured away as restricted free agents.
On March 5, when free agency begins, the Eagles have some options. Clearly, if Peppers, Robinson, Dansby and Taylor are unrestricted players, the Eagles have to give them some thought. Peppers, a standout defensive end, is expected to be the headliner of the group. He is an enormous talent who has, in recent weeks, faced a torrent of criticism that he has not lived up to his ability and that he "turns it on" only when he wants.
Robinson had a severe injury a few seasons ago but he has played well for the Texans the last couple of years. In a league where cornerbacks are at a premium, Robinson could be in line for a mega-contract.
Dansby is a play-making linebacker who has reportedly caught the interest of many, many teams. He is expected to score huge when free agency starts.
Taylor wants to be the go-to running back, something that will never happen as long as Adrian Peterson is healthy on the Vikings' roster. Taylor has outstanding skills and has been a 1,000-yard running back in his career.
A defensive end, a cornerback, a linebacker and a running back and, um, wouldn't you say all four of those positions are areas in which the Eagles will have to think about addressing this off-season?
So, free agency is not as barren of talent as maybe some thought a few weeks ago. It remains to be seen whether those players actually hit the market, but right now the top end of the free-agent class looks like it could have some impact.
* NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE OF THIS AND THAT*
I'm reading the same things you are and it sure sounds like the Eagles have been receiving quite a bit of interest from teams about their quarterbacks. Let me ask you this: If the Eagles are able to get good value for, say, Michael Vick in a trade, would you agree that the team made a wise decision signing Vick prior to the 2009 season? He didn't play as much as I expected he would, but he made impact in games against Chicago, Atlanta, New York and then at smaller times during the season (he also had the big TD pass in the playoffs), but the bigger-picture story here is what the Eagles do with Vick now.
- Good to hear that Brian Westbrook is receiving some interest from teams, although I wonder how quickly he will join a team. Judging by history, Westbrook may have to wait until later in the summer to get a deal done with a team.
- Any good rumors coming from the Combine? I don't expect a lot, because the Eagles are very smart about keeping quiet about their intentions. It is interesting to note that the draft experts think this class of quarterbacks is relatively weak. Good talent, but too many health issues. And I don't know anything about college players for the most part, but I'm going to throw my two cents out there and say that Jevan Snead will become a good quarterback in this league. He's going to be a mid- to late-round draft pick, maybe, and if he is nurtured in the right system, Snead has a chance to become a pretty good player.
- The team's off-season conditioning program starts in three weeks, but the weight room at the NovaCare Complex has been a busy, busy place as players report on their own and get in some work. This young core of players here knows how to maximize the off-season time.